Sleep. Maybe the number one or top two things parents of young kids talk about. “What time do your kids go to bed?” What time do they wake up?” Are they “good” sleepers?”
Since birth people have been asking us about our child(ren) and their sleep patterns. And 5+ years into parenting, we are still talking about sleep and trying to figure it out.
For as long as we can think back, our 5-year-old has been waking up for the day between 4:30 and 5:30 am almost every single morning, sometimes earlier than that, very rarely, later.
The positive of this, we never need to set an alarm to get up in the morning. The negative, we’re tired. I am sure there are parents who can relate with being woken up by a child at 100% energy level, and ready for the whole house to match their energy. It’s exhausting, and somehow we still aren’t quite used to it. Add any additional children and potential night wakings, and that ideal number of “7-8 hours” of sleep is not only unrealistic but just seems impossible for the foreseeable future. Are there any parents of children 5 and under getting “enough” sleep? Please, tell us we’re not alone.
Over the years we have tried many things, and made many adjustments to our older child’s bedtime routine in order to try to get them to sleep later. Early to bed, later to bed, meditation, weighted blanket, pitch black room, night lights, sound machine, no sound machine, red and green sleep light. And honestly, nothing shifted because of anything we did. His sleep has consistently ebbed and flowed between this time frame for years now, and although we desperately wish we could sleep past 5 am, there are fortunately no medical concerns to consider, this is just how he is, an early-bird, and that’s going to have to be okay.
We’ve had to figure out what we can control. And to find what works for our child. An early bedtime works best in our home. We aim for between 6:45 and 7:15 pm, or earlier if needed, but rarely later if we can help it. This also means us parents get time together in the evening, and we get a greater opportunity to get to bed at a decent time. That way we can try to optimize our own sleep since we have no control over when our kids get up, and one will likely be awake for the day well before the sun.
Lastly, we have to have a plan for the morning-something to match our child’s energy and keep them entertained, but also allows for us to ease into the day the best we can, particularly on one of those early early mornings (before 5 am). This usually includes playing in the backyard, reading books, or arts and crafts. If we can get him to stay in his room we go for that, but that’s not always worth the battle. And over the weekend, a movie or show usually keeps his attention before the rest the house is awake.
Every family has their own approach to sleep. And over the years I have had a twinge of jealousy when I hear a parent with a same age kid say they have to wake their kid(s) because they sleep too late, or that every night is a consistent 7-7. But I’ve also learned over the years that we all have battles, and as parents, we have to pick how and which ones we are going to fight. There are many things out of our control but our response to those things is what’s important. I know I am not alone in my struggles as a parent, particularly as it pertains to sleep. And as I am writing this, I am sure that all the things we thought we had figured out, will change, again.
Because that’s what kids do, they keep us on our toes.